Doris days (Brighton marathon training, week 10)

transition
Generally, I do my long runs on a Thursday as this is the best fit around my family and work life. However, I had long planned week ten in my marathon training as the point at which I would transition my long runs from Thursdays to Sundays so that I could accustom myself to the routine of running at 9:15 on a Sunday morning as I shall on race day. I chose week ten because moving my long run back three days created the opportunity for a mini taper before Brighton Half Marathon which I raced on Sunday 26 February. (Actually replacing the scheduled long run this week).

So, with the flexibility of a 10 day ‘week’, I decided to mix things up a little whilst still retaining the core of my ongoing marathon training plan.

parkrun
Racing a parkrun for the first time this year, I returned to my home parkrun (Dulwich) for the 41st time. I set out with an approximate target of 19:30 in mind. Anticipating my run, I wasn’t sure whether I would be struggling to hold on for a sub 20 finish or if I might run something closer to 19:15. Off the start line I was pulled along with the typical exuberance of the front of a parkrun field such that at 500 metres I was I was at sub 19:15 pace. Knowing, and feeling, that this was unsustainable I checked my pace slightly and completed 4k averaging 19:45 pace. Dulwich parkrun is not quite flat, it is run over 3 laps of an oval loop which has a difference of 12 metres in elevation from one end to the other. One of the quirks of running 5k over these 3 laps is that kilometre four is always the slowest, being the most cumulatively uphill, and kilometre five is always the fastest, it being the most cumulatively downhill plus, of course, this is where you deploy your sprint finish! So, as I completed 4k and saw I was on track for 19:45, I knew I would record something significantly faster than that. This positive thought spurred me on and I was feeling good physically too. Pushing throughout the final kilometre and sprinting the final 250 metres, I finished in 19:28. Yay!

The first thing I did when I got home was plug this time into the race prediction calculator at Running For Fitness to gain an indication of what I might reasonably expect to run in Brighton. This produced an age graded prediction of 1:28:26. The second thing I did, for the next couple of days at least, was feel like I had been in a race! This was after all my first hard race effort of the year so far.

Doris …
Some easy running and a swim over the next few days helped me recover and I decided to do the tempo run specified in my marathon training plan as my last significant run before Brighton Half. This happened to fall on the day that Storm Doris passed over the UK which meant that my kilometre splits were all over the place starting, as I did, almost directly into the wind. With a target pace of 4:08/km, I opened with a 4:22 and a 4:26, including jumping over several, mercifully small, fallen branches. Blissfully I then turned and put the wind on my back for the remaining three kilometres which I completed in 4:13, 4:04 and 4:00. 4:13/km overall average and certainly tempo effort if not quite tempo pace!

I finished my pre-race build up the day before Brighton with a carb load stimulus session that I first used, in more approximate form, before Brighton Half, in 2014. I deliberately chose the direction of my mile pace and sprint efforts to avoid fighting Doris’s continuing high spirits and to harness the psychological boost of running quickly relatively effortlessly.

week 10 – ending Sunday 26 February

day training
Fri
Sat 55 mins including 19:28 5k parkrun (4:31/km average)
Sun 50 mins easy (5:01/km average)
Mon (swim 1.2k, 32 mins)
Tue 40 mins easy (4:59/km average)
Wed
Thu 15 mins easy (warm up)
21 mins tempo
5 mins easy (warm down)
(5:06/km average)
(4:13/km average)
(4:58/km average)
Fri
Sat 14 mins easy (warm up)
2 mins 30 secs mile pace
30 secs sprint
9 mins easy (warm down)
(4:49/km average)
(3:20/km average)
(<3:00/km average)
(5:05/km average)
Sun Brighton Half Marathon

[update March 2017, since my original post the race organiser has issued a statement confirming that the 2017, 2016 and 2015 races were all 146 metres short. The following race report remains as originally written before the statement was issued.]

Brighton Half
My regular long run partner Simon and I entered Brighton Half back in April 2016 so keen were we to make up for the disappointment of not running that year’s race. Brighton Half is fast, almost flat and with good weather, as I experienced in both 2014 and 2015, it is certainly a PB course. By the turn of the year running friends Ed and John had also signed up and we were in good spirits driving down to Brighton notwithstanding the weather.

Storm Doris was still venting her issues as we arrived in Brighton and this confirmed my reflections over the preceding few days. I modified my plan to combatting the conditions, seeking shelter in groups and primarily ensuring that I finished inside ninety minutes as a matter of pride! My secondary goal, to be considered during the race once the effect of the conditions became clear, was to run sub 88 minutes without going all out; to avoid the potential of compromising my marathon training.

One of the benefits of travelling with friends was that I inherited their good organisation and so I found my start pen – 1:20 to 1:29 – in good time. I positioned myself towards the rear and, as the start approached, decided I would hang back a little until the 1:30 pacer appeared. I stood aside as the gun went and then jogged up to the line so that the pacer caught me up as I crossed the line. I was probably being over cautious and certainly, I got a little bogged down in the first kilometre or two in the crowds. No matter, at least I was getting plenty of shelter from the wind.

Having run the race twice before I knew what to expect as we turned into the town, subsequently returned to the sea front and then headed East to the first turn around point. As I pivoted around the cone there, at approaching 7k race distance, Doris made her presence known. The South Westerly wind was significant and immediately I settled into my plan seeking strong runners and shelter wherever I could, whilst still pressing forward. Several times I began to press only to sense the increased wind effect, reconsider and resume a position of shelter. Running the core straight stretch of the route, 9k West, into the wind I soon felt confident that I would be able to finish within 90 minutes, probably within 89 and tried to carve out another whole minute. As the second turnaround approached the wind really began to take its toll and, frustratingly, I lost contact with a group I had been running with for most of the second half of the stretch. Running without cover the final two kilometres before the turnaround were significantly slower. Nonetheless, I contemplated the possibility that I might run a fast final 5k, with the wind, and lift my time back the right side of 89 minutes.

Frustratingly, having the wind on my back did not initially seem to have much effect. I completed the next kilometre in TBC. However, I then rallied for two or three kilometres before again hitting a difficult patch. I recall this as being caused by fatigue rather than the wind, but my perception may be flawed. Even so, I rallied once more and dug out a sub 4 minute final kilometre.

By the time I had had a post race massage and regrouped with my friends, for well-earned bacon sandwiches and coffee, we had all received our results by text and hence looked pretty pleased with ourselves in our post race photo 🙂

2017-02-26-brighton-half-marathon

John, Chris, Ed, me and Simon looking pretty pleased with ourselves.

race data summary

official finish time chip 87:58
target 88:00 – 0:02 inside
splits pace
TBC, TBC, TBC, TBC, TBC,
TBC, TBC, TBC, TBC, TBC,
TBC, TBC, TBC, TBC, TBC,
TBC, TBC, TBC, TBC, TBC,
TBC (final full km), TBC (final 97.5 metres)
approx HR
138, 148, 152, 153, 154,
153, 154, 155, 151, 153,
154, 155, 154, 155, 153,
151, 154, 155, 156, 156,
158 (final full km), 162 (final 97.5 metres)
biometric summary average HR – 153
max HR – 163  (estimated personal maximum – 172)
average cadence – 180
approx start weight – 71.0kg
positions by chip time
(gun time)
overall – 290 (318) out of 8049
gender – 273 (298) out of 4283
category VM50-59 – 21 (28) out of 581
caption

Week 10 of the ‘2016 improver plan’ that I am using as a template for my training. [Available via Virgin London Marathon plans, devised by Martin Yelling.]

PB review 2016 & targets for 2017

My running in 2016 ended on a relative high. This is probably better phrased as, “My perception of running in 2016 was only saved from being ‘a complete fiasco’ by returning to a decent level of activity in December.” I ran 21 parkrun 5k events this year, but most of those were simply part of the process of recovery from one injury or another. Certainly, none were PB attempts and the fastest, 19:23 at Dulwich in June, was a full 30 seconds outside my 5k PB. Outside parkrunning, I participated in only three events this year. The first two of these were also in June; a 3k team relay and a 10000m PB although the latter was more of a statistical anomaly than a notable performance. By July I was already injured when I participated in the Thunder Run 24 hour team relay which really was such a fiasco that I couldn’t bring myself to write a blog post.

fiasco

Running in 2016 was only saved from being a complete fiasco by returning to a decent level of activity in December.

Consequently my targets for 2017 are unchanged from last year. In fact, I have removed the 50k target which I optimistically added last year as part of my #50at50 challenge. If I am unable to maintain marathon training this year long enough to line up at the Brighton Marathon in April I will likely acknowledge that the marathon is beyond my physiology and remove it too next year.

2016 season 2017 season
event opening PB target events improvement target
800m 2:25.9 2:19.9 2:19.9
1500m 5:18.2 4:49.9 4:49.9
mile 5:31.7 4:59.9 4:59.9
3000m 9:59.9 9:59.9
5000m 19:01.53 17:59.99 17:59.99
5k 18:53 17:59 21 17:59
5 mile 31:28 29:59 29:59
10000m 44:04 38:29.99 1 June 40:41.00 38:29.99
10k 39:04 38:29 38:29
10 mile 66:41 64:59 64:59
half marathon 86:29 84:59 84:59
marathon 3:09:59 3:09:59

PB review 2015 & targets for 2016

The running year that was 2015 came to a singularly disappointing end for me and was only saved from complete statistical ignominy by February’s half marathon PB at Brighton. Achilles tendonitis, though only diagnosed as such in July, affected my season from February and morphed seamlessly into prepatellar bursitis during September which then accompanied me joylessly to the end of the year. Although I ran ten parkrun 5k events this year only three of these were inside twenty minutes and, of those, I ran only two as PB attempts. Hindsight seems to suggest even those were limited by the then undiagnosed tendonitis. Consequently my targets barely require revision for 2016.

Nonetheless the presentation of data in tabular form always engenders inordinate inner joy and so I have indulged myself to the full. Compared to last year I have set targets in three additional disciplines. The 5000m and 10000m targets are prompted by my participation in a 5000m, in April at a Highgate Harriers open meeting, and my aspiration to run at Highgate Harriers night of the 10000m PBs respectively. Although I had already run once in each discipline, both in 2006, I hadn’t previously noted these PBs separately from my 5k and 10k times; primarily because they were slower than my times in those disciplines anyway. The two track disciplines should of course be faster than their road race twins – the times for a 50 year old male recording an 80% AG performance are:

  • 5000m 18:01.80 / 5k 18:26.25 [ track just over 24 seconds faster ]
  • 10000m 37:37.91 / 10k 38:22.50 [ track nearly 45 seconds faster ]

With these comparisons in mind the targets below for 5000m and 10000m are clearly much kinder than the existing targets for 5k and 10k retained from last year. Personally an 80% Age Grade remains a Holy Grail – most of my PBs equate to an AG of around 75% – and since my strongest times are in shorter events it is unlikely I will ever achieve an 80% AG at 5000m or 10000m. Similarly the targets below for marathon and 50k – the third new discipline – are even kinder; the times equate to Age Grades of 73.41% and 71.90% respectively.

2015 season 2016 season
event opening PB target events improvement target
800m 2:25.9 2:19.9 2:19.9
1500m 5:18.2 4:49.9 4:49.9
mile 5:31.7 4:59.9 4:59.9
3000m 9:59.9 9:59.9
5000m 20:27 1 April 19:01.53 17:59.99
5k 18:53 17:59 10 17:59
5 mile 31:28 29:59 29:59
10000m 44:04 38:29.99
10k 39:04 38:29 38:29
10 mile 66:41 64:59 64:59
half marathon 89:16 87:29 2 February 86:29 84:59
marathon 3:09:59 3:09:59
50k 3:54:59

Well, that is as much joy as I can realise from reflection on statistics alone. Here’s to a happier New Year with some actual running!

If … Age Grade Holy Grail revisited at 50

Shortly after my 49th birthday, I considered the times I would need to achieve to record an 80% AG at that time. Having completed my 50th year at the start of this month, and spurred on by a comment from runningest sister after last weekend’s Bromley parkrun, I have revised the times, again using the Running for Fitness calculator. The slightly easier targets, combined with several PB improvements since my original post, have moved the Holy Grail just a little closer. In some disciplines tantalisingly so …

event 80% AG time (male, 50 yrs) current PB  improvement required pace improvement required per km
800m 2:25 2:26 0:01 1s 3:03 – 3:02
1500m 4:54 5:18 0:24 16s 3:32 – 3:16
1 mile 5:18 5:32 0:14 8s 3:26 – 3:18
5k 18:26 18:53 0:27 6s 3:47 – 3:41
5 mile 30:29 31:28 0:59 8s 3:55 – 3:47
10k 38:23 39:04 0:41 4s 3:54 – 3:50
10 mile 63:00 66:41 3:41 14s 4:09 – 3:55
half marathon 83:41 86:29 2:48 8s 4:06 – 3:58
marathon 2:54:20 4:08

If, and that’s an important ‘if’, I can stay fit throughout my fiftieth year I hope to enter at least one event each of the disciplines above in a PB competitive state. The comments I made in my original post regarding how many of the disciplines I might achieve an 80% AG at still stand – essentially up to and including 5 miles at the most optimistic – so the addition of a marathon to the list is purely for interest. In any case I will approach these AG goals cautiously as I do not want to jeopardize my returning, and hopefully ongoing, fitness and hence my #50at50 challenge and in particular my first marathon and first ultramarathon within that.

All the same, it would be nice if I could record one.

A big 'if'.

A big ‘if’. Similar to an important ‘if’. Both being quite nice.

.

First 100 events

9 years, 3 months and 2 days after my first event, the London British 10k on 2 July 2006, last Saturday’s Bromley parkrun was my one hundredth. I have run in 12 different disciplines; listed here in order of my first running of each.

event count first last fastest
10k 22 2 Jul 2006, 46:40 16 Nov 2014, 39:04 39:04
5000m 2 23 Sep 2006, 20:27 15 Apr 2015, 19:01.53 19:01.53
SSRC 4 mile fun run 4 28 Jan 2007, 27:48 24 Jan 2010, 28:28 27:43
10000m 1 15 Sep 2007, 44:04 44:04
half marathon 7 28 Mar 2010, 98:13 29 Mar 2015, 87:14 86:29
5k 47 11 Aug 2012, 22:39 3 Oct 2015, 20:50 18:53
5 mile 4 2 Dec 2012, 33:11 7 Dec 2014, 31:28 31:28
Beckenham RC handicap 5 13 Feb 2013, 23:27 9 Oct 2013, 25:35 23:02
800m 2 6 Nov 2013, 2:30.1 4 Dec 2013, 2:25.9 2:25.9
1500m 3 6 Nov 2013, 5:18.2 5 Feb 2014, 5:20.9 5:18.2
10 mile 1 1 Mar 2014, 66:41 66:41
1 mile 1 5 Mar 2014, 5:31.7 5:31.7
SSRC 10k (short) 1 25 Jan 2015, 39:19 39:19

Whilst many of those event disciplines – 800m, mile, 5k, half marathon etc – are commonly understood some will be unfamiliar: Just what is a Beckenham RC handicap for example? An explanation of these anomalies, together with an up to date event count beyond the date of this post, can be found on the Event Counts page (also accessible via Stats on the site menu).

event-count-100

9 years, 3 months and 2 days after my first event last Saturday’s parkrun was my one hundredth.

I take some satisfaction from reaching 100 events and find it is interesting to reflect on how the frequency and diversity of events has increased since my early years. Although my progression has been slowed over the last two years by injury, I am certainly anticipating my 200 event milestone already. Although I may not add many new disciplines – just marathon, 50k and 3000m currently come to mind – I am hoping to reach the next milestone relatively quickly. My #50at50 celebration, which started at Bromley last weekend, should get me close to 150 by this time next year if all goes well.

 

Into the Woods

Through the trees, To where I am
Following February’s Brighton Half Marathon I had a clear plan for the intervening period leading up to yesterday morning’s Paddock Wood Half Marathon – one week of recovery, two of hard training and the final fortnight tapering to yesterday’s race. By the end of the first three and a bit weeks my plan had begun to go distinctly agley. I faired a little better in the final fortnight …

week #4

Tue 17 7.1k easy @ ~4:39/km
Wed 18 9k easy @ ~4:53/km
Thu 19 10.7k easy @ ~4:46/km
Sat 21 11.5k easy @ ~4:45/km
Sun 22 2.4k warm up
8k tempo @ ~4:01/km
2.7k warm down

This was quite a good week given what had gone before. If I had been able to execute my five week plan exactly as intended then week three would have looked much like this albeit with a longer run on the Thursday.

week #5

Mon 23 5.5k easy @ ~4:49/km
Thu 26 8k easy @ ~4:45/km
Sun 29 Paddock Wood Half Marathon

Unfortunately my easy run on Monday the twenty third was characterized by soreness on the outside of my left foot; kind of at the angle between the side and the sole of my foot. My best diagnosis is that it is some kind of peroneal pain – perhaps peroneal tendonitis – brought on by the exuberance of the previous day’s tempo run. With this in mind I deferred my second run of the week to Thursday and, still erring on the side of caution, skipped the “pre-race carb load stimulus” workout I had planned for Saturday; to repeat what I had done the day before Brighton.

Into the Paddock, (Not the original libretto)
I planned to retain several of the tweaks to race day that I introduced at Brighton; modifying some slightly in light of my experience and in a spirit of experimentation. I again ate a normal breakfast on race day having set my alarm a little earlier to allow more time between eating to racing; I cut ‘digestive transit’ a little fine at Brighton. I intended, but completely forgot, to make a flask of strong coffee to drink close to race start. I did remember to take Clif Shot Bloks with me; planning to to eat one on the start line and one at each of the four on course water stations. (I had eaten just three, all on the move, during the race at Brighton.)

My journey to Paddock Wood went reasonably well, the loss of one hour’s sleep to the changeover to British Summer Time notwithstanding. I arrived in the official race car park at about 8:40 and was very fortunate to be flagged down by another runner who advised there was no point joining the queue to park as there were no spaces left. I improvised a parking spot close to the entrance and, by the time I got out of my car, the gate to the car park had been closed and the still constant flow of runner-bearing cars was being turned away. Whether there was a second car park I don’t know, but I was thankful not to have that problem to deal with.

Into the Woods, I have to go
After walking a mile in an ever broadening stream of runners I found the start/finish line, a changing marquee, an excellent bag check operated by the local Girl Guides and the usual portaloo ghetto. Fortunately, it turned out that I didn’t have to go and so the realisation that I had forgotten to pack a toilet roll in my race bag wasn’t exposed.

For once I was able to take my place in the starting pens with several minutes to spare. I relaxed and rehearsed my pace plan – start at 4:10/km and increase by 1 second per kilometre until I reach 4:02/km and then maintain to achieve an overall average pace of 4:04/km and a finish time of 85:42 – my jantastic goal was 85:47.

Since Shot Bloks come in packs of six I decided to eat two on the start line and retain the rest for the water stations.

The way is clear, The light is good
The race announcer described and then executed the start procedure – whistle first and then gun – and we were off. The first two kilometres were slightly uphill and I felt comfortable as I ran my opening goal paces of 4:10 and 4:09. Early in kilometre three the climb crested and the course began a gentle descent. I let myself run comfortably and freely and, knowing I was descending, wasn’t too concerned that I completed the third and fourth kilometres in 4:02 and 3:57. Approaching the end of the fourth kilometre I noticed that my average pace to that point was 4:04 – my goal pace for the entire event – and realised that I no longer needed my original pace plan and could achieve my goal by simply maintaining an average pace of 4:04/km to the end.

For the remainder of the first half of the race this new plan went well …

kilometre split cumulative average pace
5 4:05 4:05
6 4:03 4:04
7 4:01 4:04
8 4:00 4:03
9 4:05 4:04
10 4:07 4:04

Into the woods, It’s time to go
I ate my first Shot Blok approaching the water station just beyond 5k as planned and as I anticipated the next station just beyond 10k I started to feel the strain for the first time. I put my second Shot Block into my mouth and willed the water station to appear. When it eventually did I took in a minimal amount of water; primarily because the water was in plastic cups* and also because, with light rain and cool temperatures throughout, I didn’t feel thirsty. It was at around this point that I saw a friendly face** calling half way times from the side of the course. Hearing “42:54” I knew I was on target for my goal time, but I was also aware that progress was becoming difficult.

I hadn’t studied the course beyond checking the number and approximate distances of the water stations and had simply believed the course was fast and flat as advertised. At half way my watch still showed 4:04 as my average pace, but I knew I had dropped a few seconds completing kilometres nine and ten. I felt like I was climbing much of the time and began to wonder just how great the descent during kilometres three and four had been? Was there now an equivalent ascent, albeit much more subtle, stretching out ahead of me? At the end of kilometre twelve I saw my average pace slip to 4:05 and tried to hold it there. Almost immediately, it seemed, it slipped again to 4:06 and I resolved to try and hold it there. I knew my existing PB equated to an average pace of 4:06/km and rationalised that if I could maintain this as my average pace a fast finish could still deliver a PB. I was unsure whether the main impediment to my progress was the undulation or the wind. As I ran I decided that it was the climbs although the wind did become a more and more significant factor as my race went on. [Only when checking my run profile today did I discover that, after the climb and descent in the first four kilometres which I correctly identified, the course is relatively flat. The wind was clearly much more significant than I judged at the time.]

The woods are just trees, The trees are just wood
The physical struggle to maintain my pace and the mental struggle to understand why I was finding it so hard took their toll. If you haven’t realised until this point that my section headings are (mostly) from Stephen Sondheim’s “Into The Woods” you may just be experiencing a hint of the disorientation I felt. I saw my average pace slip quickly away from anything that might produce a PB and revised my goal once more; an average pace no slower than 4:10/km to ensure a finish time just inside 90 minutes. I did not want to finish on the wrong side of such a significant barrier. [Such was my disorientation; only when writing this post did I realise 4:10/km is actually equivalent to 87:54!]

I fought the despair when I saw splits in the teens and twenties and put all my effort into minimizing my retardation. I stopped checking my progress in terms of distance as I had no energy or will to try to do anything other than wrestle with my average pace. I was disheartened further when runners whom I’d recently passed began to reappear at my shoulder. I used these for cover from the wind for some minutes before re-passing them and attempting to push my pace towards something that would improve my anticipated finish time. Only to have to admit defeat and tuck back in behind them when they appeared again.

The table below shows my splits, and the deterioration of my average pace, during the second half of my race. I wasn’t aware of the detail of this at the time and couldn’t have told you without my Garmin’s hindsight which kilometres were the ones where my pace failed me most. All of kilometres thirteen through nineteen merge in my mind in a blur of wind, emotional turmoil and the distinctive shirts of three or four runners who passed and re-passed me. I fought to hold on to them for the remainder of the race. One did pull significantly away, but the others and I formed a group and, I think, we sub-consciously took turns in pulling each other along. Seeing more and more split times outside 4:10 I finally saw my average pace slip to 4:09 and checked the distance remaining. I had just completed kilometre nineteen.

kilometre split cumulative average pace
11 4:10 4:04
12 4:06 4:05
13 4:09 4:05
14 4:14 4:06
15 4:20 4:07
16 4:10 4:07
17 4:15 4:07
18 4:26 4:08
19 4:15 4:09
20 4:18 4:09
21 3:55 4:08

I decided that the best tactic was now to simply race the three shirts around me. I didn’t look at my watch again. Throughout kilometre 20 I made sure that I didn’t lose my place within the group. As my watch chimed for the start of kilometre 21 one runner, in a black shirt, began to move off the front of our group. I made sure I went with him confident that with just over a kilometre to go I would be able to find a sprint finish. Not that my motivation was to beat him personally, but to use the impetus of our micro-competition to extract all that I could from myself.

As we approached the start/finish area I recognised the section of the course that had formed part of my walk to the race when I had noticed the “400m to go” and “200m to go” signs. I’m not quite sure when I started my sprint. Possibly around the 200m sign. I re-passed the runner in black, slowed just a little on the sharp turn in towards the finish line, and pressed hard again around the more gentle arc to the line. I stopped my watch and had only just recovered enough to acknowledge the congratulations of the runner in black when he appeared beside me.

I sort of hate to ask it, But do you have a basket?

I sort of hate to ask it, But do you have a basket?

race data summary

official finish time chip 87:14 (gun 87:34)
target 85:47 – 1:27 outside
splits pace
4:10, 4:09, 4:02, 3:57, 4:05,
4:03, 4:01, 4:00, 4:05, 4:07,
4:10, 4:06, 4:09, 4:14, 4:20,
4:10, 4:15, 4:26, 4:15, 4:17,
3:55 (final full km), 0:16 (final 97.5 metres)
approx HR
145, 152, 153, 155, 157,
159, 159, 160, 159, 160,
157, 159, 159, 159, 156,
159, 158, 156, 158, 159,
162 (final full km), 167 (final 97.5 metres)
biometric summary average HR – 157
max HR – 169  (estimated personal maximum – 172)
average cadence – 182
approx start weight – 69.6kg
positions by chip time
(gun time)
overall – 132 (131) out of 2061
gender – 126 (125) out of 1246
category VM40-49 – 43 (44) out of 462

Once I’d collected myself, my bag and some flapjack I walked slowly, and fairly gingerly, back to my car. Neither of my recent niggles had bothered me during the race and even post race both feet/ankles felt no more than sore and tired. Well, very sore and very tired. However by the time I arrived home I seemed to have acquired a cold. I continued to eat and rehydrate and took a single dose each of both paracetamol and ibruprofen to combat my cold symptoms and my general post race aches. I spent much of the afternoon alternately dozing and feeling sorry for myself as I used almost half a box of tissues managing my cold. I went to bed feeling quite low, anticipating several days under the weather.

Today though I woke with no cold symptoms whatsoever, I ran a relatively comfortable 4k recovery and briefly swam with my 5 year old which is always good physiotherapy for my legs and feet. And I am now feeling quite rejuvenated, thoroughly positive and enthusiastic about my running again. It looks like I’ll make it out of the woods yet.

Until next year anyway. When, I hope, my preparation will have been more optimal. And by which time I will be in the VM50-59 age category where, I couldn’t help but check, my time this year would have placed me 9th out of 212 😉

* I realise now how much I appreciated having bottled water with a sports cap at Brighton from which I found it much easier to drink a significant volume.

** Mick Firth, coach at South London Harriers, whom I recognised from a relatively brief period in early 2010 when as part of a group of athletes I trained with him in Crystal Palace Park.

Brighton bullets

[update March 2017, since my original post the race organiser has issued a statement confirming that the 2017, 2016 and 2015 races were all 146 metres short. The following race report remains as originally written before the statement was issued.]

Brighton half marathon
My run at last year’s Brighton Half Marathon was my fifth half and my first at Brighton. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Sunday’s race was my sixth half and my second at Brighton. As I approached the start line my aim was to improve my PB of 88:16, set in last year’s race, to 87:59 or a little beyond. Requiring an overall average of 4:10 per kilometre my pace plan was 4:14, 4:13, 4:12, 4:11, 4:10 and 4:09 thereafter. This, of course, produces a time of 87:48, but I like to have some flexibility 😉

confidence
I came to the line feeling confident. Particularly because:

  • My mileage totals for the six months ending the day before race day were 125, 121, 119, 143, 162 and 135. Prior to this period I had rarely run more than 120 miles in a month and never as part of such a consistent sequence.
  • In January and February I successfully introduced longer tempo runs to my training routine. Up to the end of 2014 I had never done a tempo run of more than about 5k. This year my tempo runs have increased from 7.5k via 8.5k and 8.2k to 9.3k two weeks before the race. The tempo pace I use is a little faster than half marathon pace.
  • I’ve run long runs more consistently, in terms of both frequency and distance, than ever before in the last six months. My second longest run ever, 22k, was 10 days before the race.
  • Recalling last year, I was mentally prepared for what I found to be the most difficult sections then; kilometre 15 and kilometres 17 and 18. I had also reviewed a course elevation profile noting these sections in particular.

concerns
I did have some concerns, but these seemed at least to be limited:

  • My last long run of 22k being only 10 days before the race although not optimal, was actually a considered decision. I am running the Paddock Wood Half Marathon on 29 March this year, on what I believe to be an (even) faster, flatter course, and so decided to do a limited taper for Brighton and aim to peak for Paddock Wood … We shall see.
  • Unfortunately within the last few kilometres of my 22k long run I slightly strained something in the vicinity of my lower right calf/Achilles. Serendipitously this ensured that my taper period was well observed and fortunately the combination of the taper rest and some self massage in the week before the race meant that by the day before the race I had no remaining symptoms.

tweaks
One of my sisters gave me Mark Fitzgerald’s “Performance Nutrition for Runners” for Christmas and I have just started reading it. As a consequence I tried out some new things at Brighton:

  • I had a normal breakfast on race day. Usually I have at most a slice of toast and a coffee before a morning race regardless of length. This time I ate my normal full bowl of cereal with fruit. I ate as soon as I woke up which allowed a little under three hours from eating to racing. I also made a stronger than average cup of coffee and took it with me in a flask so that I could drink it closer to race start.
  • I took a few Clif Shot Bloks with me to eat during the race. I have never eaten anything during a race before and had only eaten my first Shot Blok a few weeks earlier, with this experiment in mind, to ensure they were at least palatable.
  • I planned to take advantage of all three drinks stations. I usually drink nothing or very little even during a half marathon.
  • The day before the race I did a short session incorporating a warm up, 2 minutes at mile pace and a warm down. This was a close approximation of a workout described in Fitzgerald’s book designed to act as a final day carb-load stimulus.

and so to Brighton
My journey to Brighton went well. I parked on Brighton Race Course a few minutes after eight and sat in the car to drink my coffee. I noticed that the displayed exterior temperature was zero Celsius and when I got out the turf underfoot was partially frozen. I was a little worried that ice might be a problem on the course. Riding down to the seafront, on one of the fleet of double deckers provided to fulfil the second element of my Park & Ride ticket, I soon dropped into conversation with another runner who sensibly observed that temperatures on the sea front would certainly be warmer.

Stepping off the bus my concerns about the temperature evaporated; the air felt milder and I was going to need the sunglasses I had packed in my race bag. My breakfast completed its digestive transit just in time and, sparing the sensitive details, I learned three important lessons for the future:

  • Always pack a toilet roll in your race bag. I didn’t this time.
  • Sunglasses ensure eye contact with the next person in the queue can be avoided if unavoidably leaving a toilet cubicle less pleasant than you found it. Phew. And sorry.
  • Arriving at least 15 minutes earlier would have made it possible to reach the correct starting pen …

I’m always surprised anew at how far forward I need to start at mass participation races. And in such a big race as the Brighton half was this year – 7,600 plus finishers – that makes for a lot of people to negotiate. I didn’t have enough time. The bodies became too dense to navigate, the opportunities to climb out of the field and reliably rejoin it seemed to have ended and the race announcer started talking about race start being less than a minute away. I discarded my thermal reflective blanket (recycled from the last year’s event), climbed back into the field and took my place in the crowd.

race
The start line clock clicked to 00:00:01 and the announcer began to describe the opening seconds of the race. Back where I was standing it seemed unlikely that we would be moving any time soon. I heard the announcer describe the “one hour thirty pacers crossing the line” and looked up at the race clock to note the time. I passed the start line and started my watch about a minute later. Since my goal was to finish just over two minutes ahead of them I decided that this would be useful; I should pass them at about half way and, in so doing, get confirmation that I was on target.

The Brighton Half Marathon course starts right on the seafront and heads West for about 500 metres before turning North opposite the Palace Pier into the town. Completing a loop back near the seafront the 2.5k point is marked by a turn East onto Marine Drive from where the course climbs a little under 20 metres before reaching its Eastmost point and first turnaround approaching 7k. The course then heads West for a full 9k until its second and final turnaround and the 5k return to the start/finish.

something

The 2015 Brighton Half Marathon course as tracked by my Garmin FR620.

Being out of position – although not as badly as I was in November’s Brighton 10k – I was initially quite bogged down. I noticed my average pace just before we turned towards the town was only 4:37, but stayed relaxed and focussed on passing where I could; safely, politely and without excessive effort. After completing the turn the space available increased and when my watch chimed the first kilometre it read 4:24. I decided I would make no attempt to recoup the excess 10 seconds immediately, but to stay with my plan and aim for 4:13 in the next kilometre. This I was able to do and as I turned East onto Marine Drive I felt comfortable.

Kilometres three, four and five are all slightly uphill and with my 4:12, 4:11, 4:10 pace plan in mind I was tempering my effort. Even so each time I glanced at my watch I saw that my pace was around 4:08/km. I felt comfortable and confident that I was running at a pace I could maintain and so chose not to consciously slow to target pace. Knowing my race plan required an overall average of 4:10/km I decided to relax the strictness of my pacing and simply aim to run at or a few seconds inside this pace for the remainder of the race. As I completed the first five kilometres I noted my overall average pace to that point was 4:12/km – very good considering the opening kilometre – and felt re-assured that the decisions I’d made so far were good ones. Well except those related to my planned in-race nutrition and use of drink stations; I noticed the first station too late to make use of it and so ate my first Shot Blok on its own.

As the course levelled off I relaxed into my running until the turnaround just before 7k. I became aware of the wind for the first time. Whilst it wasn’t strong by any means it was significant enough that seeking shelter behind other runners made sense. I made this my focus as we ran back towards the town. Re-passing the water station I noticed it in time at least to grab a bottle of water if not to have started eating my second Shot Blok in anticipation. I carried the water for a while as the Shot Blok softened in my mouth and then made a concerted effort to take on a significant amount of water. Soon I was running past the start/finish area, West beyond the Palace Pier for the first time and shortly after this, at about 11k, I caught up with the 90 minute pacer group. It was also at around this time that I became aware of my right ankle; it felt slightly stiff, but fortunately didn’t deteriorate beyond this and didn’t affect my race.

Running on the closed main road I picked out a particularly tall, broad runner to follow and shelter behind. It was particularly helpful that he was, like me, pressing on relative to the field around him and passing other runners and so I was able to stick with him for some kilometres. Remembering that I had first found it difficult at around 14k in last year’s race I was pleased to find that this and subsequent kilometres passed without concern. Even so as we approached the final turnaround I decided to let the tall, broad runner go as I felt he was probably going to run a faster race than me.

The second, Westmost turnaround is not – like the first one – a simple cone in the road at which the field is required to execute a hairpin turn. Rather it is a couple of left turns, the first turns the field ninety degrees to face the sea and the second similarly turns the field back toward the finish. The final drinks station is on the section between these two turns. Having by now eaten my third Shot Blok I contemplated whether to take water or Lucozade Sport. Since I didn’t feel thirsty I decided to take the Sport drink, rationalizing that since I hadn’t tried it before I would only take a few sips, but as I didn’t feel I particularly needed hydration I would take the minimal amount of carbohydrate this would provide.

Even though the wind hadn’t seemed too much of a hindrance in the long run West, as soon as I completed the turnaround the contrasting reversal of the wind was noticeable. I no longer needed to take shelter behind other runners and started to push. There was ‘only a parkrun to go’ and I started internally counting to 100, as Paula Radcliffe has said she does, making an agreement with myself that I would focus on good form for the duration of the count; stand tall and straight, lean forward a little, use my arms well and fully engage my stomach muscles. I’m not sure if I ever completed a 100 count. Certainly sometimes I lost count and sometimes I kind of came round and noticed I was no longer counting. Each time I started again and re-focussed on my form. I no longer looked at my watch for pace, I knew I was running inside 4:10/km and I continued to pass other runners. I recall my watch chiming 20k and pressing on anew, resolving not to compromise my effort between that point and the finish. The finish is on a slight curve and this, combined with my own less than perfect vision, meant that it was only when I was within a few hundred metres of the line that I could actually see my destination. One final sprint, past one more runner, my watched chimed 21k and I was over the line. 86:29! Wow.

race data summary

official finish time chip 86:29 PB (gun 88:17)
target 87:59 – 1:30 inside
splits pace
4:22, 4:11, 4:08, 4:05, 4:09,
4:03, 4:03, 4:08, 4:03, 4:07,
4:03, 4:07, 4:08, 4:09, 4:08,
4:08, 4:05, 4:05, 4:04, 4:06,
3:47 (final full km), 0:20 (final 97.5 metres)
approx HR
error, error, 152, 153, 153,
154, 155, 153, 152, 154,
152, 153, 151, 152, 151,
151, 153, 154, 154, 154,
156 (final full km), 161 (final 97.5 metres)
biometric summary average HR – 152 (estimated due to errors)
max HR – 161 (estimated personal maximum – 172)
average cadence – 181
approx start weight – 69.6kg
positions by chip time
(gun time)
overall – 224 (280) out of 7666
gender – 218 (271) out of 4055
category VM40-49 – 62 (77) out of 1384

bullet
Once over the line my right ankle began to complain a little more and by the time I had collected my finisher’s medal, had drunk a recovery drink and was on the table for my pre-booked post race massage it had become distinctly sore. The massage left me feeling much better generally and the masseuse confirmed that my right ankle hadn’t suffered an acute injury.

The day after the race I felt battered and bruised in a normal post long race way and although I did manage a recovery run my right ankle/calf was again quite sore. The following day I acquired an, as yet unexplained, intermittent abdominal pain and this has extended my normal post race period of feeling weak and feeble. As a consequence I am only completing this report today and have yet to run again.

Nonetheless I am really looking forward to the Paddock Wood Half Marathon and more posts titled according to their most prominent typographical feature.